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CONTEXT AND OBJECTIVE: In most populations a greater proportion of men have hepatic steatosis than women. Sex-specific differences in hepatic dietary fatty acid (FA) metabolism have not been well characterized. We compared fasting and postprandial hepatic FA synthesis (de novo lipogenesis [DNL]) and oxidation in men and women. PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS: Fasting and postprandial hepatic FA metabolism was studied in 22 healthy men (n = 11) and women with similar age, body mass index, and liver fat content using metabolic substrates labeled with stable-isotope tracers ((2)H2O and [U(13)C]palmitate). Dietary FA oxidation was assessed by appearance of (13)C into plasma 3-hydroxybutyrate and breath CO2 as markers of liver and whole-body FA oxidation, respectively. RESULTS: Despite similar liver fat content, fasting and postprandial plasma triacylglycerol (TG) concentrations were significantly (P < .05) higher in men compared with women. The appearance of (13)C from dietary FA into plasma 3-hydroxybutyrate and breath CO2 was greater (P < .05) in women compared with men. Although the contribution of DNL into very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)-TG was similar (∼ 10%) in the fasting state, there was a divergence in pattern over the course of the study, with men maintaining a higher contribution of DNL to VLDL-TG than women (P = .006 time x sex interaction). CONCLUSIONS: The combination of lower dietary FA oxidation and a prolonged increase in DNL observed in men may represent partitioning of FA into esterification and storage pathways within the liver, leading to greater VLDL-TG production, and predispose to the sex difference in hepatic steatosis.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Endocrinol Metab

Publication Date





4425 - 4433


3-Hydroxybutyric Acid, Adult, Aged, Carbon Dioxide, Dietary Fats, Fasting, Fatty Acids, Female, Humans, Lipid Metabolism, Lipids, Lipogenesis, Lipoproteins, VLDL, Liver, Male, Middle Aged, Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Oxidation-Reduction, Palmitates, Postprandial Period, Sex Characteristics, Triglycerides